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The Korean War accounting effort remains a priority for the U.S. government. The Department of Defense (DoD) pursues opportunities to gain access to loss sites within North Korea and South Korea. Additionally, identifications continue to be made from remains that were returned to the U.S. using forensic and DNA technology.
More than 7,800 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the Korean War.
During Operation Glory in 1954, North Korea returned the remains of more than 3,000 Americans. Concurrently, U.S. Graves Registration teams recovered remains from South Korean battlefields. The U.S. identified thousands of these remains. In 1956, a total of 848 that could not be identified were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl. Others were added later as unknowns. One of the unknowns was interred in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
The Army Graves Registrations teams searched the battlefields in the Republic of Korea (ROK) from 1951 to 1956. Today, DoD investigates losses in South Korea with the assistance of U.S. forces in Korea and the ROK government.
From 1990 to 1994, North Korea exhumed and returned 208 boxes of remains. However, DoD scientists estimate that as many as 400 individuals could be represented in these 208 boxes.
Between July 1996, and May 2005, the Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) and JPAC, which is now part of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, conducted 33 Joint Field Activities (JFAs) in North Korea, which recovered more than 220 sets of remains, which are currently being processed for identification at JPAC in Hawaii. On May 25, 2005, the U.S. temporarily suspended JFAs in North Korea due to security concerns.
In October 1950, a North Korean Army major referred to as "The Tiger" took command of more than 700 American servicemen who had been captured and interned as POWs. In August 1953, following the signing of the armistice, only 262 of these men returned alive. One of the survivors, Army Pfc. Wayne A. "Johnnie" Johnson, risked his life during his imprisonment by secretly recording the names of 496 fellow prisoners who had died during their captivity.
DoD debriefed all returning American POWs concerning their knowledge of those who did not return from the Communist prison system. Johnson's painstakingly written record was a major contribution to this effort and helped to determine or confirm the fate of many POWs.
In 1995, a Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) analyst learned about Johnson's Tiger Survivors List while attending a Korean War Ex-POW reunion in Sacramento, California. DPMO analysts then located intelligence archives which contained Johnson's original debriefing report as well as other POW reports corroborating his information. Among these records a debriefer's handwritten memorandum recommending that Private Johnson be recognized for his bravery. This information was forwarded to the Department of the Army, and in 1996, Johnson was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest military combat decoration for valor.
A document examiner was able to recover almost all the names from Johnson's original wartime list. Some entries, however, could not be saved. Thus, there are fewer than 496 names on the typed listing, which is available on the Johnnie Johnson List page.